Friday, August 13, 2010

Power in the Personal



I'd like to welcome to my blog today Karen Walker, friend and author of Following the Whispers, a memoir. Not only is she a talented writer, but she opens her soul in a way that the reader feels they have gained a friend. I asked her to come here today to speak about not only memoir, but the importance of sharing our lives through our writing. The power of the personal. Even if you don;t write memoir sharing yourself in your work is the mark of a book that has the power to impact.

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Tabitha asked me to write a guest post that speaks to the importance of personal stories and how they benefit the world of literacy. I’m not sure that can be done in a relatively short blog post, but what I can do is talk about the power in memoir – the power which comes from writing one, and the power which comes from reading a well-written one.
It took 10 years for me to write my memoir, Following the Whispers, but that included a four-year stint back in college to complete a degree I’d started in 1969. I took virtually all the writing classes the university offered, but I especially loved the Creative Nonfiction ones. One of my professors said that when you set out to write a memoir or a personal essay, you pose a question. The essay or memoir is that exploration and you may or may not end up with a neat, tidy answer.
In 1977 I lost custody of my 3 ½ year old son. Out of the despair and devastation resulting from that, a question arose deep from my soul: what was wrong with me that such a thing could happen to a white, middle class young woman? Answering that question began a soul-searching journey of healing which continues to this day.
I didn’t decide to write a memoir. It decided me. In 1994, shortly after moving to New Mexico from Portland, Oregon, I wrote a short essay about that journey which was published in an anthology of women’s stories called “Chocolate for a Woman’s Blessings,” published by Simon and Shuster. I received letters and emails from women all over thanking me for writing my story—it helped them with similar struggles. I began to think that if a two-page snippet of my journey could help, how much more beneficial would a full-length book be?
Writing the memoir was both agonizing and cathartic. When I stepped up to the podium at my book launch and held up my book, I felt as if I’d stepped into the person I’d been striving to become for the past 30 years. That is the power of memoir for the writer. And for the reader, well…we all have our issues we deal with on a daily basis, whether it’s having grown up in a dysfunctional family, being a victim of sexual, emotional, or physical abuse, compulsive disorders, whatever. There are universal themes that each and every one of us can relate to. A well-written memoir taps into those themes. As we read someone else’s story, we can perhaps connect the dots to our own. Writing helped me make sense of my life. It still does. Even though I’m writing a fiction piece for the first time, it is still helping me make sense of my world. If you write from your heart, it can’t help but be powerful.
Perhaps memoir has a bad rap because of well-publicized issues like James Frey fictionalizing part of his story and calling it memoir. I don’t know. What I do know is that reading memoirs have moved me along my journey of healing and writing my own took me to places I never thought I could go in terms of feeling good about who I am.
Thank you, Tabitha, for asking me to do this. It is an honor to write for your blog, because you are one person who always writes from her heart in such a beautiful way.
Blessings,
Karen

Thank you Karen. Writing, whether it is fiction or non-fiction helps us to make sense of our lives. And when we do that well we also offer readers the chance to do the same. Many blessings for your continued writing and thank you for your support and for the honesty of your memoir. 

Find Karen here: 
Her book FOLLOWING THE WHISPERS is available on her website and at amazon.com.

  
What about you? How do you use writing to share your soul? 

32 comments:

  1. Wonderful post, Karen. I really enjoyed reading that. It actually reminds me of something Tab and I were talking about today, actually.

    Thank you!

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  2. An excellent post Karen, wonderful to read.
    Most pleasurable,

    Yvonne.

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  3. Thanks for visiting girls. Karen is a wonderful author and I highly recommend her memoir. Thanks for this post Karen.

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  4. Great post. And I do share myself through many of my characters, good guys and bad guys alike. There is much of me in my antagonists. Of course, I would not kill people over my beliefs. He does though.

    Stephen Tremp

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  5. I love that your memoir decided you. Very cool guest today, Tabitha.
    ~ Wendy

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  6. What a thoughtful post to read - thank you Karen, and Tabitha. I think that is very true about memoir writing - that it decides you. Very interesting.

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  7. Karen, so nice to meet you! I cannot WAIT to one day read your memoir.

    Blessings,
    Patti

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  8. Tabitha, thanks so much for hosting me today. It is such an honor. Yours is a blog I love so much and your writing almost always blows me away.
    Wen, thanks so much. It is such a rich topic, isn't it?
    Welcome to my world, glad you enjoyed it.
    Stephen, that's wonderful because it is what I think makes writing great.
    Wendy, thanks. THere were days when it didn't feel so great to be "decided," but I'm so grateful now.
    Jayne and Patti, thank you.
    Tab, you're brave for tackling the memoir has a bad rap issue here. Hope this helps is some small way.
    Karen

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  9. Karen, congratulations on the publication of your memoir! I'm excited to read it. Tabitha is such a great writer herself and wonderful friend, if she recommends it I'm there.

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  10. Fiction can be an escape that is fun, and at times even revelating and informative. But overall, reading a good memoir is one of the most interesting reads one can find. I always like those movies that are "based on a true story" and same with books. A memoir gives us a real life with whom to identify or contrast our own. It can be uplifting, reaffirming, or sad, but through learning about another, we can learn more about ourselves. Karen is doing a great job and a great service by sharing her life with others.

    I find myself posting quite a number of autobiographical sketches of my life on my blog. I may consider a memoir one day.

    Thank you Tabitha for hosting Karen today and thank you Karen for another insightful look at memoir writing.

    Lee
    Tossing It Out

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  11. Mason, thanks for stopping by.
    T.Anne,wow, thanks, but Tabitha is way out of my league - she's phenomenal.
    Arlee Bird, thanks for this. Yes, I've noticed your life blurbs and like it very much.
    It's midday in New Mexico, where I live, and I will be going to do a singing gig this afternoon and will be out of pocket. But I'll check back later this evening answer any questions you may have about memoir writing.
    Thanks again, Tab.
    Karen

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  12. Thanks for sharing, Karen. I would love to read your memoir.
    What an awesome moment when you held up your book and felt as if you had stepped into the person you were trying to become for the past 30 years.

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  13. We need more bravehearts like Karen in our world. Congratulations!
    And congratulations Tabitha for winning this month at aussiewriters! We look forward to seeing your blog up there in the next week:-)
    Wendy
    www.aussiewriters.blogspot.com

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  14. Karen that's a brave thing to do. There's areas in my life I wouldn't want to relive.

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  15. What a wonderful post! I have a lot of respect for those who write memoir - it must take a lot of courage to write so personally.

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  16. Great post! Such a great reminder - to dig deep and be honest/real regardless of what we write. It's soething I'm always aspiring to do.

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  17. I heard Rosanne Cash talking about memoir writing on NPR today...and she said much of the same thing--that it found her. She said the most important thing was to be true to herself and not to try to respond to what others had put out there.

    Really interesting post! Tabitha--send me a note about your guest blog at Southern City Mysteries.

    Michele
    Southern City Mysteries

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  18. Great post. I write fiction, and it has helped me process real life.

    Thank you for sharing, Karen.

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  19. Tabitha how wonderful you asked Karen to guest post. Karen, a most informative, well written read. I find it hard to write unless it is from the heart.
    Thank you both :)
    Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

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  20. this was great to read Karen. I too recently published my memoir and it won a national book award. I didn't want to write...but similiar to you...it was time. I'll check out your book.

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  21. Jennifer, it was one of the most incredible moments of my life.
    Wendy, it certainly didn't feel brave while I was writing, but I guess it is brave to bare your soul.
    Diane, I agree. The only point in reliving is to heal and hopefully help others. Otherwise, not so much.
    Susan, thanks. I know people see it as courageous, but it's really just being honest and vulnerable.
    Katie, yes, to me the best writing, whether fiction or nonfiction, is when the writer digs deep.
    Michele, that's so true. Especially with memoir, it doesn't work to try to figure out what the market wants to read.

    Dawn, I'm attempting fiction now and I can see what you mean.
    Jules, thank you. I'll look forward to reading your blog.
    Karen

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  22. Thank everyone for coming by. Please check out Karen's book if you or anyone you know is struggling with or could use more practice at Following the Whispers within their own hearts :)

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  23. Thanks Tabitha, for a lovely post and introducing us to Karen. For me every bit of my writing has to be from my heart, else it will not connect with readers.

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  24. Karen, thank you for sharing this reading in your post. Appreciate your comments as well to me. Blessings, JBR

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  25. great post - thank you both for sharing... I getting to know more and more that I don't just write because I like too - but it's part of me - who I am

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  26. Rachna, so true, isn't it. Heart to heart connections.
    JBR, you're welcome.
    Michelle, yes, I've discovered the same thing. I can't imagine a life without writing in it at this point, no matter whether it's published or not.
    Tab, I can't thank you enough for inviting me to write this guest post. It was fun "meeting" your followers.
    Blessings,
    karen

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  27. Hey, Tabitha, you've been tagged on my blog, so check that out! Please and thank you!

    Write on!

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  28. Sarah, a national book award. Way to go! I'll check your book out as well.
    Karen

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  29. My honor to have you here Karen. Thanks for coming :)

    Thanks Vatche, I will go check it out :)

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  30. Karen, thanks for sharing this. It was wonderful to read :)

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  31. You are a courageous woman to write out your pain. I am drawn into a well-written memoir. Thank you for sharing your story.

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